Posted Mar 12, 2006 21:24:14
Tech To Face Clemson in First Round of NIT
RUSTON – After an impressive 20-win season, Louisiana Tech is headed back to the post-season for the first time since 2002 as head coach Keith Richard and Co. will face the Clemson Tigers Wednesday in the first round of the National Invitation Tournament.
Tech received a No. 5 seed and will face the No. 4 seed Tigers, who finished 18-12 overall on the season including an 11-4 mark in games played at Littlejohn Coliseum.
“I’m very happy that our players have been rewarded for what they’ve accomplished this season,” Richard said Sunday night. “We won 20 games overall and finished tied for second in the Western Athletic Conference, which is the ninth toughest conference in the country. I’m thrilled that our program and these kids have been rewarded.”
Despite playing a tough out-of-conference schedule that included road games at Memphis, Wisconsin, Alabama, Texas Tech and Nebraska, the Bulldogs won 20 games for the first time since 2001-02, when Tech posted a 22-10 mark and advanced to the semifinals of the NIT Tournament before falling 67-64 to Villanova.
“This basketball team has traveled all over the country this season to play,” Richard said. “We haven’t been to (the state of) South Carolina yet, so I guess we will go there as well.
“(Regardless of where we have played) these guys have showed up every night and competed,and I expect that we will do the same (Wednesday).”
Led by All-American forward Paul Millsap, who is on pace to become the first player in NCAA history to lead the country in rebounding three straight seasons, Tech posted impressive road wins at Texas Tech, Southern Illinois and Hawaii this season.
“It’s a great opportunity to keep playing,” Millsap said. “We would have liked to have made the NCAA Tournament but that didn’t work out. But I am excited about the chance to play (at Clemson).”
Tech is the only member of the Western Athletic Conference to earn an NIT berth as Nevada and Utah State received NCAA Tournament bids Sunday.
The NIT appearance marks the sixth time that Louisiana Tech has participated in the post-season tournament, with the Bulldogs best showing coming in 1986 when it advanced to the Final Four at Madison Square Garden earning a third place finish.
In 2002, Richard led Tech to NIT where the Bulldogs knocked off UL-Lafayette and Vanderbilt before falling to Villanova. Tech is 7-5 all-time in NIT games.
Clemson finished in a tie for seventh place in the Atlantic Coast Conference and if not for three league overtime losses, the Tigers could have made the NCAA Tournament.